Blog

12 Feb
1

Budget Failures and Buyouts

Budget Failures and Buyouts
Taxpayers Continue Paying for Fallin’s Failures

[Oklahoma City, OK, February 12, 2016] Yesterday it was announced that Fallin’s general counsel, Steve Mullins, had accepted a buyout and will be moving on to something else professionally. Mullins is the third person directly related to the ongoing grand jury investigation regarding drug “mix-ups” in 2015. Robert Patton, State Corrections Department Director, and Anita Trammell, Oklahoma State Penitentiary Warden also resigned or retired after their testimonies to the grand jury.

“Suspicion is definitely high right now and we all are anxiously awaiting the outcome of the grand jury investigation,” said Sarah Baker, Oklahoma Democratic Party Communications Director. “Furthermore, it is very concerning that at a time when the state is facing a now $1.3 billion revenue failure – a budget hole that is likely to grow as session moves forward – the Governor’s general counsel would receive a presently undisclosed buyout after giving his grand jury testimony. The Governor’s general counsel is not a position which can remain vacant so we can only wonder now how much these ‘mix-ups’ are going to continue to cost the taxpayers of Oklahoma. How many other severance packages or buyouts can we expect to see relating to this investigation.”

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12 Feb
0

Fallin Tells Taxpayers To Wait In Line

[Oklahoma City, OK, February 12, 2016] This week the Oklahoma Democratic Party followed up on their efforts to uncover the cost of Mary Fallin’s trip to Paris in June 2015, and all items and persons relating to said junket. The original open records request for the information was made on June 16, 2015, more than seven months ago.

In a response provided yesterday by Michael McNutt, Fallin’s Communications Director, he said that the Oklahoma Democratic Party wants to “leapfrog others who filed open records requests before it.” This could not be further from the truth; however, we do expect that the Governor’s office provide information requested by all parties, including the Oklahoma Democratic Party in a reasonable amount of time. The Open Records Act states that “[a] public body must provide prompt, reasonable access to its records.” It is the opinion of the Oklahoma Democratic Party, on behalf of the taxpayers and constituents of Oklahoma, that seven months with no results is neither prompt nor reasonable – yet par for the course with this inept Republican administration.

“We have been more than reasonable and patient while waiting on the Governor’s office to provide the information we requested. Even in November we reached back out to her office requesting the information or at minimum a timeline of when we could expect the information to be provided. The response from her office was essentially for us to wait in line,” stated Oklahoma Democratic Party Chair Mark Hammons. “The Governor’s office has a bad habit of dragging out litigation in an apparent attempt to wear down her opposition or find a loophole to avoid providing information that the taxpayers of Oklahoma have a right to know.

“We have gone well past the timeframe originally outlined to the Governor’s office in which we would seek legal relief for this situation but her office has continued to refuse to comply. The Governor and her staff left us no option other than to pursue this through the courts. The simple fact is that the Governor’s refusal to provide information requested is a bad habit and she has been subsequently sued multiple times for this same reason. It is our goal to not only uncover exactly what happened regarding her trip to Paris but also bring to light the continued incompetence of the Governor and her office in fulfilling her duties and responsibilities as executive of the State of Oklahoma.”

11 Feb
1

Fallin Wants It Both Ways

Fallin Wants It Both Ways
Tells GOP Legislature to Pick Corporations Over Kids

Earlier this week Mary Fallin “warned” legislators to not even review if the massive corporate tax breaks the Republican leadership has pushed for the past six years are actually benefitting Oklahoma. Both during and after Fallin’s State of the State Address last week, it became apparent that her “goals” had not been discussed with anyone in the legislature. The Governor’s suggestion that Oklahoma may have lost two major business projects due to the legislature reviewing these tax credits – if true – would naturally be alarming, however the refusal of the Governor or her staff to go into further detail makes her statements seem more like a smoke screen to get what she and her corporate friends want.

Just last month, Fallin presented disingenuous commentary on General Electric’s decision to move from Connecticut to Boston, blaming the shift on the state’s high tax rates. While GE spokespersons said that tax incentives were certainly a small piece of the decision, they were not the whole pie. The move to Boston had more to do with educational opportunities for employees and their children, mass transit, and a thriving technology-driven workforce available at the ready. She failed, or all out refused, to admit in her commentary that the tax structure of Connecticut and Massachusetts are incredibly similar as that would make her argument less feasible.

Years of irresponsible revenue cuts, including the cut that went into effect this year in which the average household won’t see enough to take their family out to dinner, are finally coming home to roost. Republicans are hearing from their constituents who are more and more concerned about the negative effects of continued cuts to core services like education, roads and bridges, and public safety. Education has experienced the largest loss to revenue at $356 million, Higher Education at $138 million, and the Oklahoma Health Care Authority at $139 million. These are just the agencies with the three largest losses to revenue despite growing student population and health care needs of middle class and poverty stricken Oklahomans.

This comes on the heels of seeing the Fallin administration and Executive branch officials exempting their agencies from pay freezes, Fallin’s interim Corrections Director saying we need to close prisons, the possibility of over 110,000 low-income Oklahomans losing their Medicaid coverage, and lower than expected revenue for the month of January,

Once again, Fallin is pushing her own agenda at the expense of the well-being of Oklahomans. She continues to ignore the needs of the people and refuses to have constructive conversations with members of her own party. She continues to prove that she’s very skilled at dispensing political rhetoric and favors to her cronies but a failure when she is called upon to run the state and promote policies that help working Oklahomans.

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10 Feb
2

Historic Voting Opportunity for Oklahoma Independents

[Oklahoma City, OK, February 10, 2016] Yesterday, the nation’s first primary was held in New Hampshire but on Tuesday, March 1st, voters registered as Independent or no-party will be able to vote for a presidential nominee for the first time ever in Oklahoma. Oklahoma’s presidential primary falls on Super Tuesday along with nine other states’ primaries, two states with Democrat and Republican caucuses, three Republican caucuses, American Samoa Democratic caucuses, and Democrats Abroad primary selection.

This past July, the Oklahoma Democratic Party voted to open up the Democratic Primaries to Independent voters. Historically, only those voters registered with either of the two major parties have had the privilege of showing their support for a presidential-nominee candidate.

Independent voters are the fastest growing group of voters in Oklahoma and across the country. “It just makes sense that if we expect our elected officials to represent their entire constituencies, regardless of individual political affiliation of the voter, that the quarter-of-a-million Oklahoma voters who don’t identify with the traditional two-party system have the opportunity to choose not just a general election candidate but a nominee as well,” said Mark Hammons, Oklahoma Democratic Party Chair.

“Opponents of open or semi-open primaries, including the Oklahoma Republican Party, continue to argue that this step will dilute the base of our party or is a ‘hail-mary’ move to sway more voters our way come the General Election. Neither of these theories are the intent of what we are trying to accomplish. With more than three-fifths of eligible voters in Oklahoma choosing to sit-out elections, apathy with the two-party system continues to grow and this is the time to be inclusive not exclusive. It does not benefit Oklahoma to eliminate people from the election process.”

An individual must be registered to vote at least 24 days prior to election day. Young voters who will be 18 on or before election day may register to vote 24-60 days prior.

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09 Feb
0

Holt Abandons Oklahoma Teachers for Rubio

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[Oklahoma City, OK, February 9, 2016] In the midst of a billion dollar budget failure, discussions of a $900 million sales tax increase, teacher pay raises, and a host of other major policy agendas, Senator David Holt (R-OKC) has taken a vacation to campaign for presidential candidate Marco Rubio in New Hampshire.

“We find it really hard to believe that during this perilous time in Oklahoma, and at the start of the short four month legislative session in which the Senate has just three weeks to report the first round of bills from committee, that Senator Holt feels he has enough free time to go on the road campaigning for another candidate,” said Sarah Baker, Communications Director for the Oklahoma Democratic Party.

Baker continued, “Not to mention, the candidate he’s chosen continues to trail behind Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. Why does campaigning for a third-place candidate rank higher in priority than doing the business which he was elected to do and is paid for by Oklahoma? It appears that when you run unopposed in your last election that you can do whatever you want no matter the responsibilities you have at home.”

This year, Holt introduced a complicated six-piece proposal for teacher pay raises without tax increases which includes two items that must go to the voters and the other four elements have to make it through the legislature. “If Senator Holt is really taking this proposal seriously, it seems incredibly unwise for him to leave at a time that is so crucial to getting his bills past the first legislative deadline just 12 working days away,” Baker stated. “I can’t imagine that if he is truly taking his proposal seriously that he’d up and leave to campaign for Marco Rubio in another state.”

Every year since his election in 2010, Holt has introduced various pieces legislation to introduce new tax cuts. He has been a staunch supporter of charter schools, education savings accounts (ESAs), and school vouchers. Just this year Holt has introduced 33 bills; numerous pieces cover teacher pay, criminal justice reform, and even some affecting Oklahoma elections. Holt sits on Appropriations, General Government, Judiciary, and Public Safety committees and is the Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Select Agencies.

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